SCOTT — The Richards of Acadiana High have come close but have never won a boys state soccer title as a Wrecking Rams player or head coach.
Jan Richard reached the semifinals as a sophomore in 1990 but Acadiana lost to Catholic High-Baton Rouge in overtime. Twin brothers Ben and Jared Richard, meanwhile, were seniors on the 1996 Wrecking Rams team that reached the state semifinals but that team fell short against Mandeville.
Patriarch of the family, father John, guided the program as its head coach from 1991-96 but only celebrated a state title after he stepped down as head coach, and serving as an assistant for the program’s back-to-back title teams in 1997-98.
Jan Richard, in his eighth season as the head coach at his alma mater, is hoping to change all that when Acadiana (23-3-6) takes on two-time defending state champion St. Paul’s of Covington (26-1-3) on Saturday in the Division I championship game at Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans.
“I was young (34 years old) at the time when I took the job, and I was really hungry for this position,” Jan said. “I wanted this job for a long time. It was a big learning curve, though. You have the kids trying to understand your system and philosophy and how things are going to shake out.
“It is a lot tougher than people put on. You have to put your heart and soul into the program.”
Jan’s efforts have once again made Acadiana one of the premier boys soccer teams in the area. In his eight seasons at the helm, the Wrecking Rams have made the playoffs all eight years, have won at least one playoff game seven of those years, reached the quarterfinals five times and the semifinals three times.
The only thing missing from that impressive résumé was a trip to New Orleans to play for a state title. That changed last Saturday when Acadiana defeated Grace King on penalty kicks.
“We caught some bad breaks through the playoffs the past few years and to be perfectly honest we could be here right now talking about three straight state final trips in a row,” Jan said. “Our training is tough here and the preseason is demanding, but the kids know that I wear my heart on my sleeve and they know I am in it for them, way more than for myself.”
Jan’s father for one feels that his son has surpassed him as a soccer coach.
“I started with no knowledge of the sport, but Jan had a real passion for it,” John said. “As successful as he was in high school and college as a player, I am really proud of what he has done as a coach. I have given him my insights over the years but I think he is more knowledgeable because he played the game. He has the passion for the game and for the kids. I couldn’t be prouder.”
John Richard did get to experience what it is like to win the championship trophy. The elder Richard stepped aside as head coach after the 1996 season, to allow his dear friend and then assistant, the late Glenn Laviolette, coach the program.
“He asked me if I would ever let him be head coach,” said John, who would coach Acadiana’s girls soccer team from 2000-08.
“He was my friend, and it was all about the team anyway, so I said sure. A lot of people regretted that for me, but I never did. It was all about the kids.”
Acadiana went on to win its first boys soccer title defeating Jesuit in 1997 and then beating archrival Lafayette High the following year, a season John vividly recounts his Rams defeating the Mighty Lions three times.
Acadiana tried to make it three in a row in 1999 but lost to Jesuit in the title game, the same program the Rams lost to in the 2001 title game, its last appearance in the championship game until now.
Richard now has the opportunity to bring home the state championship trophy, for the program that has meant so much to him and his family over the past 25-plus years.
“If we won, it would be for all the kids that have gone through the campaign and my staff over the years,” Jan said. “I think the program has come a long way. I have poured my heart and soul into the program and these boys have as well. It would mean so much to me not only as a coach but also because I was a player here.
“It would be epic to hoist the championship trophy and bring it back to Scott.”